By the way, who is Ellis?


Madurai has many residential areas named after political personalities. There are also places like Shenoy Nagar and Gnanaolivupuram, carrying the names of officials who served in the city. But who is Ellis? Many residents of Ellis Nagar, developed by the Tamil Nadu Housing Board in early 1980s, are unaware of the association of Francis Whyte Ellis (1777-1819), a British civil servant in the Madras Presidency, with their colony.

He joined the East India Company's service in 1796 in Madras as a writer. Later, he rose to become the Collector of Madras in 1810, after serving in various positions as Assistant Under Secretary; Deputy Secretary; Secretary, Board of Revenue; Judge of Machilipatnam zilla and Collector of Land Customs of Madras. He died of cholera in Ramanathapuram on March 10, 1819. Ellis was buried in Dindigul.

Francis Ellis is recognised by several scholars, including Robert Caldwell, as the first scholar to classify Tamil, Telugu and Kannada as a family of Dravidian languages.

Thomas R. Trautmann, in his ‘Languages and Nations: The Dravidian Proof in Colonial Madras,' hails the 1816 work of Ellis as “proof of the unity and non-Sanskritic origin of the South Indian languages.”

Ellis was a member of the Madras Literary Society and founder of the College of Fort St. George. He also helped to set up the College Press, which published Veeramamunivar's ‘Kodum Tamizh' in 1813; a Tamil grammar primer, ‘Ilakkana Surukkam,' and Ellis' own translation and commentary of ‘Tirukkural.'

According to available literature, Ellis had a good relationship with Indians and even adopted their customs and way of dressing.

His grave in Dindigul bears inscriptions in English and Tamil. The English inscription reads:

“Uniting activity of mind with versatility of genius, he displayed the same ardour and happy sufficiency on whatever his varied talents were employed. Conversant with the Hindoo languages and Literature of the Peninsula, he was loved and esteemed by the Natives of India, with whom he associated intimately.”

The Housing and Urban Developmentt Department, through a GO (Ms. No. 1534), approved the formation of a residential colony at Ellis Nagar by the Tamil Nadu Housing Board under Tamil Nadu Urban Development Programme on November 9, 1978. Later, in July 1981, it was converted into a TNHB scheme due to paucity of funds.

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Printable version | Dec 12, 2019 7:16:23 PM |

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